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Selling Spellirium: Set Phasers to ‘Maximum Pimp’
by Ryan Creighton on 04/19/13 10:48:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

[This article by Ryan Henson Creighton is re-posted from the Untold Entertainment blog, which is awesome.]

The Spellirium Pre-Order campaign has been running for a week and a half now, so i thought it would be a good time to check in with stats and reportage.

Although we don't have a fundraising target posted, a dream scenario would have us raising $50000, so that we can cover off voice-over comfortably (at ~$20k), and then have enough left over to hire storyboarders and animators to clean up existing cut-scenes, and animate new ones for the third act (~$20k), leaving $10k for the balancing, gameplay testing and polish that the alpha requires.

Here's how the first ten days of the campaign look, sales-wise:

The campaign launched on a Tuesday, and all kinds of magical, marvellous things happened. The little spike on the following Sunday was courtesy of Tim Schafer, who has generously helped out many crowdfunding campaigns since his own record-shattering Kickstarter campaign last year. Big thanks to Tim for his generosity!

Moron Math

When i "ran the numbers" for the campaign, this is what i thought: at a dream target of $50k, and an assumed (and extremely conservative) conversion rate of only 1%, we would "only" need to drive five hundred thousand pairs of eyeballs to the campaign site in order to raise that kind of money. No problem, right? With a good mix of press attention and word of mouth, it was no small feat, but we were up to the task.

Reality paints a different picture. Our actual conversion rate is astronomical, at 62.6%. That means that most people who hear about Spellirium come to the site with wallets in-hand. That's great news.

The glum news is that if we maintain a daily average of $192.30 (which will only decrease the farther we get from that large Day One sum), it will take almost three quarters of a year to raise the dough. We've only budgeted one month to drive the campaign really hard, so a dramatic fall-off is imminent if we don't do something to increase traffic.

Something to Increase Traffic

So how do you get a whopping truckload of eyeballs to your website? Common sense says that you go where the eyeballs are: in this case, press sites that have the attention of a large number of people. But dig this: the media focus that so many indies strive for may not bring the boom that they expect.

Here is a list of the significant press attention the campaign has received to date:

Now take a look at the traffic sources for the website:

The three t.co links are Twitter traffic. @UntoldEnt has 3600 followers on the social networking site. That network, with considerable help from the likes of Tim Schafer and Tycho from Penny Arcade, accounts for the bulk of our visitors.

The second-biggest referrer is Mojang.com, the studio that created Minecraft (with their own legendarily successful alpha campaign). On Day One, Mojang's Marc Watson tweeted about the project. The Mojang website features a sidebar where employee tweets roll by.

 

Marc's tweet couldn't have appeared in that sidebar for more than a few hours, but players clicking on his link have accounted for the second-highest amount of traffic to the campaign. That's the kind of attention 10 million unit sales of Minecraft gets you!

De-Pressed

Press sources that you would expect to have driven more traffic are suspiciously absent from the Traffic Sources list. Have you ever dreamed of seeing your game in lights on a site like Joystiq.com? Their Spellirium article, posted in the apparent traffic Dead Zone last Sunday night, brought a whole 8 visitors to the campaign. JayIsGames who, six years ago, brought two thousand people to Untold Entertainment in a single day, has only pulled in a tenth of that traffic in a week and a half!

Bizarrely, in other instances the posts i'm putting out seem to be completely traffic repellent. Look at this weirdness from a post i wrote on the Oculus Rift message boards:

The Skydive post, which went up around noon, has had 230 views. A mere 3 hours later, the Spellirium post has only drawn 14 people. Bizarre! (Although in retrospect, i should have just titled the post "Spellirium" ... it looks like any mention of 2D is like a garlic-infused crucifix to the 3D-loving Oculus Rift vampires.)

Big Game Hunting

Now, please don't misunderstand: i am very grateful for all the stories press people have been writing about Spellirium so far. It's just an interesting cautionary note that the "big score" you're chasing may not pan out.

Help! i'm being attacked by bad graphics!

Just this week, i heard an anecdote about someone who busted hump chasing an IGN story which, when it finally dropped, sent only a few dozen people to his website. i'm placing a lot more hope in the mid-size sites who perhaps post less frequently, have a more intimate relationship with their readers, and can talk about Spellirium through a number of different avenues available to them, including Twitter, Facebook, and their email list. And in certain cases, maybe a trashpunk adventure game just doesn't interest the readership of certain sites?

Will You Give Me a Minute?

Search loves video, or so i hear. The vlog strategy backfired on me a few years ago when i paid five-dollar increments to have the crazies over at Fiverr.com shoot ZombieGameWorld.com testimonials for me. This time, i'm taking the vlogs into my own hands. Robby Duguay (AKA "the Doogs"), composer and campaign contributor, helped me bang out no fewer than eighteen developer diary videos, which we kicked off today with the immensely silly Spellirium Minute Episode #0: Tripping the Oculus Rift. We have enough segments to release one a day for the next two and a half weeks. And so we shall!



If you want to catch 'em all, subscribe to the Untold Entertainment YouTube channel. The videos will appear in our "Spellirium Minute" playlist. The first six vids talk about the different prototypes we built on our way to finding a fun mechanic for the game.

Pimpin' Comes Easy

Having an entire month to devote to grassroots PR makes me wonder if i've missed my calling? It's very, very difficult, and it means humbling myself and shaming myself and extolling myself all at the same time. It's frenetic and exhausting and it sometimes feels like i'm in the middle of a Rube Goldberg machine, and have been tasked with making sure it runs properly. But because of its intricate and challenging network of interconnected puzzles, promoting Spellirium is one of the most fun and exciting adventure games i've ever played!

If you have any hints for how i can achieve a complete score of 50000 by the time i finish the game, leave them below in the comments section. Spoilers are encouraged.


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Comments


Glen M
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Perhaps the idea of a 2D game in a 3D virtual world doesn't appeal to people at this time. They are going to want the 3D wow at first. Have you considered other platforms for your game? I am currently running an iPad RPG Kickstarter (pimp link --> http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zenfar/brigands-and-barbarian
s-hd ) that is not doing that well, if it fails I will evaluate a number of things including:

1) Should I add additional platforms and relaunch
2) Do I need to change the underlying gameplay or graphics using bootstrap funds?
3) Does my game just not appeal to gamers that see it?
4) What can I do to market it better?
5) Should I add IAP or go freemium (I don't want to at all, but Mr. Market disagrees).

You have clearly nailed the marketing part of the equation so your list will vary. You face one additional hurdle what is the Rift's install base? It may be that you are just too early to a new market with this game. Good Luck!

Ryan Creighton
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Thanks. Glen. The article title the good folks at Gamasutra chose is somewhat misleading ... the video of Spellirium on the Oculus Rift is a parody of Oculus Rift reaction videos that have been popular lately. Unless it's specially-tuned with some sort of parallax movement, a 2D game will just not benefit from being on the Oculus Rift - like, AT ALL. To be honest, i had hoped more folks would get the joke.

Arseniy Shved
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Well.. I liked the video and humor.

Aaron San Filippo
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Ryan, thanks for sharing these stats!

We basically did the same thing you're doing here, about 6 months ago:
http://flippfly.com/news/announcement-crowd-funding-flippfly-styl
e/

We had considerably less media attention (and our "campaign" wasn't nearly as cool as yours) - but our experience was about the same, and we were also disappointed (and to be honest, slightly surprised) at how little actual traffic and revenue came from the write-ups we did have.

My first idea: Go after Youtubers, and get them a preview copy. Pixel Prospector has a list of about 100 of them. These guys can get lots of eyes.

My second idea: reconsider Kickstarter, or indiegogo. I know you have a historical aversion to it, but hear me out:

* It lends an automatic sense of urgency. People assume you need the money to make the game (which you do, if you want to finish it in a reasonable timeframe) and the timer gets people motivated to help get the word out. Without a time limit, I think your funding curve will always look more like a long-tail sales curve.
* It lends a greater credibility. Everyone knows how it works already. People trust it, and know what to expect.
* Your success so far and your ability to get such great attention shows your product has legs. Kickstarter is a great magnifier of great products.

Best of luck!

Ryan Creighton
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Thanks, Aaron! i'm not counting Kickstarter out. i wanted to see if it was possible to run a successful independent campaign. Maybe it's not?

Know this, though: i can manufacture urgency in my campaign any time i like. And unlike Kickstarter, i can build in MULTIPLE urgent deadlines, whereas a Kickstarter campaign just ... you know. Ends.

i'm gonna look into that YouTuber list ...


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